Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Software Review:

Web Browsing: Research and Citing Sources, Grades 6-8;

Tutorial Lessons and NETS, k-12:
  • Browsing Basics
    • 5. Digital Citizenship: Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.
      • 5.a Students advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology
    • 6. Technology Operations and Concepts: Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations.
      • 6.a Students understand and use technology systems
      • 6.b Students select and use applications effectively and productively
  • URLs
    • 1. Creativity and Innovation: Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
      • 1.a Students apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, processes
    • 2. Communication and Collaboration: Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the earning of others.
      • 2.a Students interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media
    • 6. Technology Operations and Concepts: Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations.
      • 6.a Students understand and use technology systems
      • 6.b Students select and use applications effectively and productively
  • Web Searches
    • 3. Research and Information Fluency: Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.
      • 3.b Students locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media
      • 3.c Students evaluate and select information sources based on the the appropriateness of specific tasks
    • 4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making: Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources
      • 4.c Students collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions
    • 5. Digital Citizenship: Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.
      • 5.a Students advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology
  • Validity and Sourcing
    • 1. Creativity and Innovation: Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
      • 1.a Students apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, processes
    • 2. Communication and Collaboration: Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the earning of others.
      • 2.a Students interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media
      • 2.b Students communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats
    • 5. Digital Citizenship: Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.
      • 5.a Students advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology
      • 5.b Students exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity

This tutorial gives students the basic understandings and skills needed to access and do research on the Internet. Beginning with an explanation of what the Internet actually is, the program grounds students in how powerful and comprehensive a tool the web is. The other lessons allow students a chance to learn how to access web pages, search for resources, and evaluate the relevance and validity of those sources. The program is extremely useful for those who have little to no background experience with the web. By teaching students something as elementary as how to type in a web address, the program assumes no prior knowledge and therefore is comprehensive in the processes it covers. However, it is unrealistic in today's society to expect that a classroom of middle schoolers would not be experienced with the web. As the lessons are a bit lengthy and slow-paced for someone familiar with the subject matter, I would expect students to get a bit bored with the lesson. I think it would be more expedient to give a quick lesson myself on web basics. However, the lessons on efficient searches and material evaluation are quite helpful as they are less commonplace skills. These can be boring topics to lecture on, but are crucial for students to understand, so this web program can help capture their interest while relaying the lesson. While I do appreciate that the program was trying to make the learning experience fun, it seemed that parts of the program that included the professor were too contrived, forced into the program merely to grab attention. This could be fixed by either toning down the professor, or invigorating the other speaker to make her delivery a bit more expressive and entertaining.

(2007) easytech integrator. Retrieved March 2, 2009, from

International Society for Technology in Education. (2007) NETS for Students 2007. Retrieved March 2, 2009, from

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Coastal Chronicles

Creating Lifelong Learners
April Paustian
I love to learn. What is my biggest problem with my schoolwork? I often get so absorbed in my research that I collect far too much to condense into just one paper or presentation. Education carries me away and gets me truly excited, and it is this excitement that I want to bring to the classroom. When I speak with others about the things that I have learned, I know that my eyes light up and I tend to talk faster out of sheer exhilaration, and I know that it is this liveliness and passion that keeps people listening to me as I share my knowledge. If anything sets me apart as a future teacher, I believe it is this passion. Ever since I was really young and first entered th classroom in preschool, I have known that school is where I belong. I love the challenge of working with others to help them find the answer and grow as learners. That is the main component of my teaching philosophy: I want to help my students become lifelong learners. As an experimentalist in the classroom, I believe that education works best when students are interested, because, in nurturing this interest teachers can help students develop the skills to learn far beyond the classroom setting. Schooling should not be limited simply to the facts and figures (or, in the literature classroom, the tropes and vocabulary) that students are tested on. I want to ignite in my students the same passion for learning that I have. I believe the best way to do that is to encourage students and give them the tools to discover and learn about anything that fascinates them or that they may need to know later in life.
Contact Information:

Immersing Yourself
Charles Faithful
Since graduating high school I have attended numerous colleges, which I believe to be beneficial. To start off I went Santa Barbara City College after high school where I received my certificate of competency Sales and Marketing. After going to SBCC for I finished up my general education at Palomar College. After more dedication I was finally able to transfer to Cal State San Marcos. I came to CSUSM as a Communication major and enjoyed every part of it, thanks mainly to the professors. I also studied abroad in Spain and attended Universidad de Pais Vaso for my final Spanish requirements and I received my BA in Communication May of 2007. After studying abroad in Spain I decided to travel throughout Europe via Euro Rail and staying in hostels. I went through just about every European Country and fell in love with traveling. There is just something about immersing yourself into new cultures and seeing how other people live first hand. I have also traveled throughout Peru as well, surfing up and down the coast staying in fishing villages and small towns. If you can't tell by now traveling and surfing are my two biggest passions in life. Between the two you can never stop learning and I like being able to challenge myself all the time. While traveling abroad I would just teach basic English to some of the local people (Peru). Also while I was in Spain I had an intercambio in which we would educate each other about our native language. Some people say you find yourself when you travel and I feel that is true. Helping others learn a new language was very fulfilling and made me feel good about myself. I think if I were to name one of my biggest attributes to being a teacher is my sense of culture awareness. I say this because I have experienced many types of cultures in my travels from Pagan cultures to Catholic cultures. I think my travels would help me relate better to kids and would help me connect to them as well. There's just something about knowing you helped someone educate themselves or figure something out that is self rewarding that makes me want to teach.
Contact Information

Loving Language
April Paustian
I have always excelled in all of my classes, but the classes that I have loved were my English classes. I have found that I have an affinity for reading and writing, and I would love to share that enjoyment and passion with my students. Personally, I am not confident in my skills as a creative writer, yet I am really excited to unleash and encourage that ability in others. I have been astounded to see some of the writing that high schoolers are capable of and cannot wait to encourage my classroom to discover their own power with words. I am a careful reader and capable of writing good analyses of literature, something that excites me but which will probably be a challenge to get high school students interested in. However, that is a challenge that I am up for and which I look forward to; I want to make literature come alive for my students, and have them fall in love with the written word as I have. From their own writing to works by authors throughout the centuries, I want them to find something that they can connect with and use as a lens to help them understand the world. Too many people are voicing a belief that literary study is useless in today's corporate world: as an English teacher, I would like to bring a renewed relevance to English study. Another aspect of my subject area is grammar instruction. Grammar fascinates me but is usually the subject of many moans and is often cited by students as the thing that made them hate English. The intricacies and regularities of grammar and language as a whole are something that I want students to get a feel for and an appreciation of to help their problem solving and analysis skills--abilities which are completely relevant to today's world.

Language Arts Online Resources:
Schools of California Online Resources for Education, Language Arts
Read, Write, Think
California Language Arts Content Standards

A Bilingual Nation
Charles Faithful
Everyone goes into something because that's what they feel they would like to do. For me I really had no clear vision of what I wanted to do until i was sitting in a train traveling through the Pyrenees into France. I hadn't really realized how much Spanish I had learned until i had returned to another Spanish speaking country a year later. Friends and those who spoke Spanish always complemented me on my Spanish but I had never really known that I could speak it very well. I'm hoping I could spread my enthusiasm about learning a new language to those who would like or need to learn another language. I would like to teach ESL abroad in a Spanish speaking country and eventually move back to the states and transition into Spanish and teach both. The reason why I would like to go abroad is not only because I enjoy traveling but because I want to learn more as well. I really don't have a preference of teaching a specific grade. I know I want to teach those who really want to learn and are enthusiastic because when it comes to another language I believe you need to be in order to really grasp it. On the other hand it has to be made enjoyable to learn and I think some teachers have forgotten that.

Online Resources
Working Abroad.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Journal 5

"The Big Screen: Using a Data Projector to Teach Writing" by John Brown

As a high school language arts teacher, John Brown has noticed that students are often unable to grasp that their writing can have a meaning different from the one that they meant to express. Because of the interpretive nature of reading, a text's meaning is largely determined by the audience, not by the writer. Therefore, the writer must remain conscious of the prospective audience and their possible interpretations. However, Brown highlights the fact that when students take their writing assignments home to complete, they are writing away from their audience. This disconnect can lead them to make errors in their writing and produce pieces that pose problems for the reader. Therefore, Brown proposes that writer and audience need to be connected during the writing process, and he offers that technology is the way to do it because it is fast and capable of reaching the entire class. So, once students finish a draft in his class, it is projected on the big screen and the entire class reads it in front of the author and comments on problem areas, which are then corrected as a class and are later used as launch points for the lecture. I really liked that Brown noticed the issues that arise from writing in an isolated environment. Writing is meant to be read, yet if the focus is only put on the writing act, then this important aspect is forgotten, along with its important implications. I think that his approach was a creative one as well, meant to reach the whole class and bring it together to create a reading community. If students write knowing that they are going to project their essay in front of the class, then a clear-cut audience will always be at the forefront of their minds as they write, and students might be inclined to try harder on writing if they know that it will reach more than just the teacher.

Q1: What is a weak point in this technique?
A1: Projecting drafts for perusal and correction by the entire class can be very intimidating for a student writer. The way that Brown wrote the article, it made it seem like the job of the audience was to find the weak points of the essay, and this is problematic because then every finished draft becomes an opportunity for a class witch hunt, in essence. High school students can be cruel, especially en masse. I believe that the whole class setting opens the student writer up to too much damaging criticism, rather than constructive criticism. Also, the student that Brown specifically discusses in the article wrote a story about the death of a grandparent--something that is obviously a very sensitive topic for the writer, and which must be dealt with in just as sensitive a manner. Teachers make assignments to help atudents learn a range of writing skills in a variety of approaches and genres, however, the classroom audience will not be an appropriate one for all of these assignments! Treating the class as a homogenous audience applicable to all writing can damage students not only on the reception of the piece, but also in the crafting of it. If students do not learn to write for a varied audience, it can be just as hindering as not being conscious of an audience at all.

Q2: What is a way to integrate technology into the editing process, but in a smaller group setting?
A2: Obviously, the classroom projector won't work for smaller groups, because the entire class would still have access to the student's work. However, if students worked in clusters at the computer, Google docs could be used between them. Once a student finishes a draft, he or she can make the rest of the group collaborators on the paper and the students can then offer solutions for problem areas. Since Google saves the paper at various stages of revision, the author could track the revisions, and, therefore, still be able to see where the audience had difficulties. Since the groups are smaller, it would be more comfortable for the student, and the groups could change for each project, thereby varying the audience!

Journal 4

"What's Not on the Web" by Joyce Kazman Valenza

The web offers a wealth of information, making student research much easier. However, as school librarian Joyce Kazman Valenza points out, it should not be the sole source of student information and it is best if it is not the starting point for a research project. Although many free-access websites have credible and usable information for students, finding these efficiently can be tricky and often leads students to choose unsatisfactory sources. Not only do students neglect to use the online database services that many schools subscribe to, but, because of the ease of access of the web, many students also neglect to actually go to the library to do research anymore. This is a loss because students miss out on the many print resources that schools have purchased and which, oftentimes are not accessible online, or are accessible only at great cost or difficulty. Also, students miss out on the most valuable research asset: the librarian! Whereas online students wade through possible sources alone, in the library the librarian can help guide students to good resources. I think that this article is really important for teachers to understand because, even though most schools do subscribe not to some sort of database (which allows students access to better resources than the free web alone) the internet is not yet an all-inclusive resource. Also, if students are not trained properly on how to find good internet sources, then teachers will receive substandard essays. The internet is a great tool, but it is far from perfect.

Q1: Should the free web be emphasized at all as a good source for academic research?
A1: It seems that the free web is a good place to begin research and get grounded in the topic. In the article, Valenza indicates that actually the library should be the place that students come to do background research and get their feet wet with the topic. However, I believe that, many library resources are not written at the basic level meant to give a general understanding, and so can be overwhelming for students if they have no previous experience with a topic. Also, the bulk of the research time will be spent on the applicable higher level understanding; therefore, since the free web is so easily accessed, the background research can be quick, leaving students the time to wade through the library stacks to do the more difficult searching. Otherwise, while there are good sources to be found on the free web, I believe that it can be too difficult for students to navigate it properly and find sources of equal caliber to the ones in the library or on a database. Whereas older students may be able to handle it, I think high schoolers are better left focusing their energy on the research paper itself instead of the perils of the web.

Q2: Eventually the web will become a comprehensive resource, probably making libraries obsolete. How can the web compensate for some of the functions that libraries now serve?
It will take away the face-to-face contact with experienced librarians. However, many library web pages, like that of CSUSM, offer a live chat option with librarians, so students can consult with experienced researchers when they hit a snag in their paper writing. One thing that my professors emphasize now is that, in going to the library stacks and actually looking for books, we often are able to then find more than just the one book we were looking for. Whereas we may have searched one topic and been led to a particular book, when we get to the shelf we usually find more related books that can be equally, if not more, helpful. I think the internet is becoming apt at this as well though, with many search engines suggesting other topics and with more than one article or website coming up on a search. Like Valenza points out, as long as students do not limit themselves to just a handful of familiar web sites, then they keep themselves open to many possible sources, many more than a library book shelf can hold.

Journal 3

"Reaching Students with Emotional Disabilities: A Partnership that Works, Part 1" by Keith Wetzel

Lori Mora taught a small middle school classroom of students with emotional disabilities, characterized mainly by issues with collaborative situations. Whereas most of her students had been stigmatized in the past due to these disbilities, Mora attempted to change this and encourage better social skills by integrating technology into her classroom. All assignments were done using a variety of computer programs, and the once stigmatized students decided to call themselves the "Advanced Technology Class" to emphasize their growing skills with computers, rather than their special needs. Wonderfully, the normal pattern of individual work faded quickly in the classroom, a change which Mora credits to the necessary collaborative nature of mastering new technology. Given something to aspire to, the students were able to concentrate on the task at hand. I feel that Mora's planning was very well done. One of her students mentioned that his other teachers did not let him use computers because they assumed his behavior problems would lead him to damage the technology. Mora did not let any assumptions about these students get in her way, and instead found a really good way to get them out of their shells and overcome their emotional disabilities. The students were not learning about technology for technology's sake, but rather to assist them in their schoolwork, thereby learning about more than just collaboration, but the actual subject matter as well. What I appreciated most about Mora's plan, however, was that it gave the students something to aim for and feel proud of, unlike many special education classes that can leave students feeling substandard.

Q1: Even though I do not want to teach a specifically special education class, what can I take away from Mora's approach?
A1: I did not think of technology as a collaborative tool before. When I read the article, I assumed that her students, who prefer to work alone, would actually be encouraged to work alone at the computers since each student had his own monitor and workspace. Technology to me just often seems impersonal. However, it was actually a really good tool because the students were able to consult with one another in order to increase their skill level with the technology. It was also really helpful because the teacher, at times, needed assistance, so the students got to experience a role-reversal of sorts and teach the teacher. Therefore, the computers helped not only with collaborative skills, but with expository skills as well, encouraging students to be clear in their interactions with training others.

Q2: The author mentioned that Mora would have the students do a lot of the activities on paper before using the appropriate computer application. Is this necessary or does it just waste time?
A2: I liked the idea of doing some of the activities on paper first. A lot of the applications do many of the steps for the students (such as in Word, the program can find synonyms for the student or it can also find spelling and grammar errors for the student). If students get used to only developing the technological skills rather than the logic skills that underlie them, then in situations where the technology fails or is unavailable the student also becomes just as inefficient. For example, as listed earlier, if Word always corrects a student's spelling, then the student does not get accustomed to doing his or her own proofreading, and therefore may become incapable of correcting errors without the SpellCheck function.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Journal 2

"See Jane Read...See Johnny Write" by Lyn C. Howell

As a high school English teacher, Howell wanted to create a project that would allow her student writers a chance to explore the concept of audience. In the past the students had handmade books for students in a partner elementary school classroom; however, this method was slow and expensive. Instead, she started having the students write their stories onto PowerPoint slides after conversing with the elementary students through emails. This was a much more efficient system, and allowed the students the added experience with technology and the advantages, such as sound and graphics, that it has to offer. When I first read about this teaching method, I was a bit skeptical, believing that the handmade books would get the students more excited about the project, having to take more of a personal interest by being able to make decisions and consciously craft the books. I felt that having a finished product that the students could physically hold and show off would give the students pride in their work, and would also be good for their elementary school buddies who would get to actually sit down with a book designed just for them. However, I did not even think about how much PowerPoint would have to offer to enrich the books. I was looking at this one-sided, but in thinking about the world in an increasingly technological way, the project gave the students just as much of a chance to get engaged with writing and reading, just in a different manner.

Q1: What other craft projects that are usually only done with paper could be done with the computer instead?
A1: PowerPoint is already a common tool in the classroom, with students using it for many presentations. A lot of oral presentations could be given a technological component: many computers have recording devices, so that, in some cases, presentations could be recorded ahead of time or perhaps taken even farther and made into a film project instead. I thought that the idea of having the students record themselves reading the books, and attaching these recordings to the appropriate PowerPoint slides was really interesting, because it would actually help the younger students read along and get into the story. So, in thinking along the lines of this creativity, many other projects could be computerized with just a bit of imagination. Autobiographies and family trees could be done on a computer. A lot of the analysis of novels could be made into a website so that the objective for the students would go beyond just helping their own class understand, but providing their work to assist others as well. This would work really well, I think, because then students could be grouped based on the different parts of the analysis (characterization, setting, theme, etc.) and each be responsible for a different page of the website.

Q2: In Howell's class, the students dealt with the elementary class through e-mail; what is the drawback to using electronic communication?
A2: Howell's class was communicating with a class several states away, so face-to-face contact was not an option. However, they used to communicate through written letters. Given the situation, email was an ideal solution because it was faster and overall easier to deal with. However, I think that if I were in Howell's position, I would seek a collaborative elementary classroom closer to the school so that perhaps students could arrange meetings with their elementary partners. If students did not meet that often (which probably would not be sustainable anyway, due to budget and time constraints), then the students could still get practice with writing letters and emails, but they would also get to experience in-person collaboration. There is no substitute for actually spending time with people. I believe that in never truly interacting with the students, Howell's class lost out on the opportunity to practice interpersonal communication, and the elementary students lost some quality time with older mentors.